Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader – SEFA DEI; CALLISTE (CSS)

SEFA DEI, George J. ; CALLISTE, Agnes (Eds.), with the assistance of Margarida Aguiar. Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader. Fernwood Publishing, 2000. 188p. Resenha de: BECKETT, Gulbahar H. Canadian Social Studies, v.38, n.3, p., 2004.

Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader is a volume edited by George J. Sefa Dei and Agnes Calliste. As the title suggests, this book is indeed a critical, informative, and thought provoking reader on power, race, gender, and education. The book includes eight chapters plus an introduction and conclusion that address questions of racism and schooling practices in a variety of educational settings in Canada, a country that practices multiculturalism and is considered to value and promote diversity. Most Canadians believe that the country’s multicultural policy was established with good intentions and has served the country and its people well. As such, we rarely ask ourselves questions such as: Who is benefiting from the policy and who is not? Why and why not? What are the strengths and limitations of the multicultural policy in empowering people of all origins? What more can be done to ensure equality in education and the larger society? This very well written book asks and answers these and many other very important questions.

Specifically, Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education addresses critical issues such as multiculturalism, racism, equality, exclusion, and gender issues from theoretical as well as practical perspectives. It calls for a critical examination of and going beyond multiculturalism by challenging the status quo with critical anti-racist education. In Chapter 1, Dei contextualizes the book through his discussion of a critical anti-racist discursive theoretical framework that deals foremost with equity: the qualitative value of justice (p. 17). He is critical of multiculturalism arguing that it creates a public discourse of a colour-blind society and he calls for an acknowledgement of and confrontation with differences. According to Dei, confronting the dynamics and relational aspects of race, class, ethnic, and gender differences is essential to power sharing in colour-coded Euro-Canadian contexts.

In Chapter 2, Bedard continues the discussion of multiculturalism and anti-racist education through a deconstruction of Whiteness in relation to historical colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. He reminds readers of the complexity of the race issue as we still live with the legacy of colonialism. He asserts that through their ideological and intellectual ruling of Canada, as well as many other parts of the world (e.g., Africa and Asia), white people enjoy more privileges that are not afforded to people from other racial backgrounds. In Chapter 3, Ibrahim revisits tensions surrounding curriculum relevance and demonstrates how popular culture, especially Black popular culture (e.g., Hip Hop and Rap), can be utilized to carry out anti-racism education as it relates to students identity formation, cultural and linguistics practices, and sense of alienation from or relation to everyday classroom practice. In Chapter 4, James and Mannette address issues related to visible minority students’ access to publicly funded post-secondary education. Through rich personal accounts from students, they illustrate how these students mediate systemic barriers, gain entry, and experience post-secondary education in Canada.

In Chapter 5, Henry presents a brief reflection of black teachers’ positionality in Canadian universities and schools through three vignettes: her personal experience, two teacher candidates’ experiences, and a veteran teacher’s experience. Through these vignettes, Henry makes a case that black women in Canadian universities and schools were isolated and bore the responsibility of raising the awareness and consciousness of the White people in their work environment (p. 97). She calls on all of us to reflect on every day acts of power and subordination and to use them to develop theories and workable strategies to end inequality (p. 97). In Chapter 6, Tastsoglou discusses various types of borders and the challenges and rewards of cultural, political, and pedagogical border crossing. As a transnational person who crosses various borders daily, I found the discussion to be particularly interesting. Among others, I like the points Tastsoglou makes about otherness (i.e., how all of us can be othered sometime or another) and the detailed illustration of border pedagogy (Giroux, 1991) that can enable us to engage in socially and historically constructed multiple cultural experiences.

In Chapter 7, Wright addresses issues of exclusion and engages in an anti-racist critique of progressive academic discourse in general rather than Canadian multiculturalism per se, using post-modernist, post-structuralist, post-colonialist, feminist, and Afrocentricist discourses. What I found particularly informative in this chapter is Wright’s discussion of what Afrocentricism and feminism are and how they can contribute to our understanding of inclusion and exclusion. In Chapter 8, Calliste presents and discusses some research studies on racism in Canadian universities. This chapter shows racism does exist in Canadian universities overtly as well as through hidden curriculum. As such, it supports Dei’s argument that Canada is a colour-coded society where racism and inequality exist and need to be addressed.

In summary, Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader is a book that challenges us to be critical of the multiculturalism that has become part of Canadian social and public discourse. It reminds us that multiculturalism works with the notion of a basic humanness. As such, it downplays inequalities and differences by accentuating shared commonalities among peoples of various backgrounds. It advocates empathy for minorities on the basis of a common humanity, envisions a future assured by goodwill, tolerance, and understanding among all, but it also breeds complacency, creating the illusion that we live in a raceless, classless, and genderless society. For example, Dei points out that, while a raceless, classless, and genderless society is an ideal that we all aspire to and work towards, we must remember that, at present, such a society is a luxury that is only possible for people from a certain racial background, namely white people. He, therefore, urges us to acknowledge that while multiculturalism is an important first step in building an ideal nation, it is anti-racist education that seeks to challenge the status quo and aspires to excellence. According to Dei and Calliste, anti-racism education practice must lead to an understanding that excellence is equity and equity is excellence (p.164). I would recommend this book as a required text for undergraduate and graduate level sociology and educational foundations related courses.


Giroux, H. (1991). Post-modernism as border pedagogy: Redefining the boundaries of
race and ethnicity. In H. Giroux (Ed.). Postmodernism, feminism, and cultural
politics: Redrawing educational boundaries
 (pp. 217-56). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Gulbahar H. Beckett – College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA.

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